#Muckedup chat Tuesday: should reporters learn to code?

Should we code? At one point we asked ourselves whether or not going to journalism school was worth our time and money. Then there was the whole blogger versus journalist nonsense. Now we're debating whether or not the ability to write basic HTML and CSS or level up to the likes of JavaScript, Python and Ruby are worth stooped shoulders and furrowed brows. Well...is it?

Journos this week sounded off after a pair of articles from The Atlantic's Olga Khazan declared journalists shouldn't code -- because it's a waste of time, she says.

What I took from my experience was this: If you want to be a reporter, learning code will not help. It will only waste time that you should have been using to write freelance articles or do internships—the real factors that lead to these increasingly scarce positions. 

Shots fired back both in support and opposition. Nieman Lab posted a strong argument by USC professor Robert Hernandez in favor of learning digital skills. He says while not all journos need to master coding, "they should know that it is not magic and, to be successful in their modern careers, they need to be able to communicate and work alongside different experts, including programmers. They need to be, at a minimum, digitally literate."

On Friday, Mathew Ingram wrote a piece on PaidContent that basically took the stance that the current media climate dictates we stay informed and learn -- if only to keep ourselves employed and current, and to be able to fix web mistakes as they happen.  

The days are numbered (if not over) when a journalist could just write without having even a passing knowledge of other parts of the media process, from the way a content-management system works to how ads are sold.  

I agree with Ingram's view. We need to know and respect the medium, at least on a basic level, in order to more efficiently do our jobs. 

I myself have wrote about coding as a future must-have business skill for all web professionals, not just journos. And while I didn't specifically write that piece for reporters, I think we reporters are well served to stock our digital arsenals as much as we possibly can. Jobs are harder and harder to come by, and knowing now to code not only sets you apart from competitors, but it can also actually help you do your job better. In a pinch, fixing an errant <div> or embedding content can be as crucial as fixing a fact error. 

You may not have to know how to code from scratch, but basic maintenance and functional understanding are a must. We journalists can't afford to be one-dimensional in anything anymore. And those that code, and code well, are that much more valuable than those who can't -- or unwilling to make the attempt. 

Either you agree or disagree, or maybe you're on the fence. Take a stand one way or another, voice your thoughts and join me this Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 8 EST to get #muckedup. I promise you that after the chat you'll be in one camp or the other. And I have a strong feeling which one. 

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